Tuesday, May 22

Women’s soccer practices penalty kicks for Kentucky match

Senior Zakiya Bywaters and the women's soccer team prepare for today's game in San Diego.

Senior Zakiya Bywaters and the women's soccer team prepare for today's game in San Diego.

Neil Bedi

Women’s soccer
Today, 4:30 p.m.
San Diego State University

In last year’s NCAA Tournament, the UCLA women’s soccer team fell to San Diego on penalty kicks in the second round.

So, as the Bruins prepare for their second-round match against Kentucky, what were they working on at the end of practices this week?

Penalty kicks.

“Last year was last year and we don’t even think about it,” coach B.J. Snow said.

“This is a new team with a new personality and our focus is on one game, which just happens to be a second-round game.”

While the team can say that it is not thinking about what happened last year, it is still preparing for the possibility of penalty kicks, which can make or break a game in the NCAA Tournament.

The third-seeded Bruins will travel to San Diego State University today to take on the Wildcats.

The team is looking forward to playing in a neutral-road stadium, as the players will be able to focus on the game and not worry about the environment.

“I think it’s going to be good to get away,” senior midfielder/forward Zakiya Bywaters said. “We’re in the middle of midterms and whatnot, so just to be able to get a break and get away from that atmosphere, we’ll be able to focus on the team more, instead of all of the outside factors that are here at home.”

The Bruins were able to regain some confidence last weekend by bouncing back from two straight losses to defeat Wisconsin in the first round, which they hope will carry over to today’s match.

“I definitely think that (the losses) make us want to play harder, because we know every team can beat us if we just hand them the game, so we definitely have to come out strong,” sophomore defender Ally Courtnall said.

This will be the first time that UCLA has ever faced Kentucky, which could be a disadvantage for the Bruins.

But, Snow said that unfamiliar opponents come with the territory in the NCAA Tournament, and that the Bruins can only focus on themselves because they can only control their own performance.

“When you play teams that you haven’t seen before, that’s a part of the NCAA Tournament,” Snow said.

“You’re going to have a limited knowledge of a lot of their players and a lot of their systems or their coaches and all that kind of stuff. It’s just a natural evolution of how the NCAA Tournament works, so we just have to prepare our team the best we can.”

If UCLA defeats Kentucky to advance to the Round of 16, it will face the winner of today’s California versus San Diego State match. But the Bruins are only concentrating on their match against the Wildcats before worrying about anything else.

“This is a single-game elimination tournament,” Snow said. “Which means we have a game (today) and that’s our sole focus.”

Email Drantch at [email protected]

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